This psalm is ascribed to David. His plea to be forgiven of sins and his mention of many enemies would seem to fit the time when Absalom plotted to seize the throne.
David lifted up his “soul” to YHWH. The dwelling place of the Most High is in the heavens. Therefore, David, in thought, lifted his “soul” or very being into YHWH’s presence.
By referring to the Almighty as “my God,” the psalmist gave evidence of his close relationship with him. He had placed his trust or confidence in YHWH, looking to him for aid, and pleaded that he would not be put to shame or come to disappointment as if he had misplaced his trust. If he had been abandoned and fallen into the hands of his enemies, he would have experienced shame. Therefore, he also prayed that his foes would not be permitted to exult over him. The exultation in having triumphed over David could have been accompanied by the belief that his God, in whom he had placed his trust, could not save him.
Apparently the psalmist expands his personal expression to embrace all who wait on or place their hope in YHWH for help and protection, confidently stating that they would not be put to shame or come to disappointment. Because the Most High would not fail to respond in their time of distress, their enemies would not be able to gloat. These enemies, the ones acting treacherously, would experience shame, having failed to gain the upper hand. The Hebrew adverb (reyqám, modifying “act treacherously” is commonly understood to mean “without cause.” In this context, however, the sense may be that the treacherous ones or those “acting lawlessly” (LXX) would not attain their objective.
David’s desire was for YHWH to make known or reveal to him his “ways.” These ways would be the laws and principles that served to guide conduct that reflected divine holiness or purity. David wanted YHWH to “teach” him the approved “paths,” evidently because he desired to live in harmony with them.
The expression “lead me in your truth” may signify that David asked YHWH to direct his walk in the path of truth or in a right or proper course. This is the path he wanted his God to teach him. He desired divine instruction, because he recognized YHWH as the God who would effect his salvation or deliverance from all his distressing circumstances. There was never a time that David ceased looking to YHWH for his aid and guidance. “All the day” or the whole day long, he waited on or hoped in his God.
The petition for YHWH to “remember” his mercies and his abiding loyalty or compassionate care would mean that he would manifest these attributes to the psalmist. Divine mercies and kindnesses reflecting love and compassion have existed from of old. Therefore, as YHWH had acted mercifully and lovingly in the past, David prayed that he likewise become the recipient of divine mercy and compassionate care and concern.
Sin is the failure to reflect God’s holiness or purity in attitude, word, or action, and harms one’s relationship with him. Therefore, David pleaded that, in keeping with God’s abiding loyalty or “mercy” (LXX), the “sins of his youth” or his “transgressions” (perhaps meaning his more recent sins, but, according to the Septuagint, sins of “ignorance”) not be remembered. Instead of having the record of his sins held against him, David wanted to be remembered on the basis of God’s goodness or benevolence, making it possible for him to continue being a recipient of mercies and expressions of loving care.
YHWH is “good and upright” in the ultimate sense. He never deviates from being caring and just. Because he is “good and upright,” he “instructs” sinners, making them fully aware of their wrong course so that they might abandon it, learn his ways, and live uprightly.
The lowly, meek, or humble are teachable persons who respond to divine instruction. YHWH leads them rightly, according to his revealed standard of justice, helping them to live uprightly. He teaches them “his way” or the course he approves and blesses.
“All the paths of YHWH” or all of his dealings are distinguished by abiding loyalty, compassionate care, or loving concern (“mercy,” LXX), and by what is true, faithful, trustworthy, or dependable. This would be the case for all those keeping his “covenant” (evidently the law covenant) and his “testimonies” or solemn charges contained in the law.
The psalmist petitioned YHWH to forgive his iniquity, recognizing that his guilt was great. He pleaded on the basis of God’s name, for he had no merit of his own. The revelation of God’s name to Moses indicates that the psalmist rightly prayed that he be pardoned for the sake of God’s name. YHWH declared himself to be “a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6, 7, Tanakh)
The answer to the question about who is the man fearing YHWH or having reverential regard for him is: He is the one whom the Almighty will instruct in the way that should be followed. It is the course the God-fearing one should choose and would want to pursue.
Having chosen to conduct himself in harmony with divine instruction, the “soul” of the God-fearing man, or he himself, would abide or lodge in “good” or in a desirable state of well-being as if surrounded by it like a dwelling. His “seed” or offspring would inherit the land. The line of descent would remain unbroken, and the land inheritance would continue to be in the possession of his children and subsequent generations.
For those who fear YHWH, he is like one who confides in them or their intimate confidant, counselor, or friend. The Hebrew word sod can mean “counsel” or “council” (the inner circle of intimate advisors, companions, confidants or friends). According to the Septuagint, he is their “strength” or “support,” providing them with aid and protection. To those fearing him, YHWH makes known his covenant, enabling them to understand and appreciate it and to recognize what it requires of them. The “covenant” is the law covenant. Those understanding it were in a position to conduct themselves uprightly and maintain a divinely approved standing.
At all times David focused his eyes on YHWH, looking to him for assistance. He did so with the confidence that his God would deliver or release him from the net or snare his enemies set for him. David referred to this net or snare as one entangling his feet and thus one having been placed in his path.
He pleaded for YHWH to turn his face to him and to show him favor or be gracious to him. This was an appeal for his plight to be seen and to be liberated from the distressing situation, for he found himself “alone” or “deserted,” seemingly abandoned, and afflicted or in a helpless state of distress.
The “straits” or “anxieties” of David’s heart apparently are the troubles that weighed heavily on his deep inner self and occasioned anxiety. In the Masoretic Text, the expression “straits of my heart” is followed by a form of the verb racháv, meaning “widen,” “broaden,” “enlarge,” or “to be wide, broad, or spread out.” This could mean that David’s difficulties had increased or intensified. Numerous modern translations, however, have chosen to render the Hebrew as meaning “relieve.” David prayed for YHWH to bring him out of or free him from his distresses.
He wanted the Almighty to “see” his affliction and trouble, taking note of his great suffering, and not hold his sins against him. In order to have God’s favorable attention, he needed to have an approved standing and, therefore, supplicated to be forgiven of all his sins.
David desired that God “see” how great the number of his foes had become and the fierce or intense hatred with which they hated him. The manifest objective of his appeal was that the Almighty would take note of the helpless situation in which he found himself on account of the large number of enemies and the fierceness of their unjustified hatred.
With his life being seriously threatened because of many enemies, David prayed that God guard his “soul” or life and rescue him. He repeated the thought about not being put to shame (25:2) for having placed his trust in YHWH for deliverance. If he had been abandoned to his enemies, he would have been put to shame or come to disappointment respecting his trust, and they would have wrongly concluded that his God could not help him. David had taken refuge in YHWH, and so his appeal to be delivered and not put to shame rested on the basis of his unqualified trust in the only One who could save him.
Earlier, David had prayed for his sins to be forgiven and he acknowledged YHWH’s being “good and upright.” (25:7, 8, 18) Therefore, the “integrity and uprightness” that would safeguard or preserve David may not designate his own but the integrity and uprightness of his God, the One for whom he waited or in whom he had placed his hope or trust. With reference to YHWH, the Hebrew word for “integrity” would signify “completeness” or “perfection.” Because all of God’s activity is flawless and just, his “perfection” and “uprightness” would guarantee that those fully relying on him would be preserved. A number of translations, however, make the reference to the psalmist explicit. Examples are: “May my goodness and honesty preserve me, because I trust in you” (GNT, Second Edition) “I obey you with all my heart, and I trust you, knowing that you will save me.” (CEV) The Septuagint rendering does not support an application to the psalmist but reads, “Innocent and upright ones have attached themselves to me.” Additionally, the Septuagint rendering would not allow for understanding “integrity and uprightness” to apply to God.
The psalmist concluded with a petition for “Israel” or God’s people. His request was that God redeem or deliver Israel from all its distress, trouble, or needy circumstances. If the historical background for this psalm is the period of Abasalom’s revolt, this petition would reflect David’s concern for his people, many of whom had deserted him and sided with his son. It would have been a request rooted in a spirit of forgiveness.
This is an acrostic psalm, with the start of each verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Nearly every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used successively, but the last verse starts with the letter pe. This may be purposeful. The opening verse begins with aleph (A), the middle verse with lamed (L), and the concluding verse with pe (P or Ph), which letters spell “aleph” or the first letter of the alphabet. Possibly the alphabetic arrangement functioned as a memory aid.
Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.
In verse 16, the Hebrew word for “lonely,” “alone,” or “deserted” (yachíd) can also mean “only one.” The Septuagint rendering is monogenés, meaning “only-begotten,” “only,” or “unique in its kind.” At the beginning of this verse, the Septuagint does not refer to God’s “face,” but reads, “Look upon me and pity me.”